Nathan Young

Project manager/Director @ Frostwork (web app agency)
15938 karmaJoined Working (6-15 years)London, UK



Builds web apps (eg and makes forecasts. Currently I have spare capacity. 

How others can help me

Talking to those in forecasting to improve my forecasting question generation tool

Writing forecasting questions on EA topics.

Meeting EAs I become lifelong friends with.

How I can help others

Connecting them to other EAs.

Writing forecasting questions on metaculus.

Talking to them about forecasting.


Moving In Step With One Another


Topic contributions

Interesting take. I don't like it. 

Perhaps because I like saying overrated/underrated.

But also because overrated/underrated is a quick way to provide information. "Forecasting is underrated by the population at large" is much easier to think of than "forecasting is probably rated 4/10 by the population at large and should be rated 6/10"

Over/underrated requires about 3 mental queries, "Is it better or worse than my ingroup thinks" "Is it better or worse than my ingroup thinks?" "Am I gonna have to be clear about what I mean?"

Scoring the current and desired status of something requires about 20 queries "Is 4 fair?" "Is 5 fair" "What axis am I rating on?" "Popularity?" "If I score it a 4 will people think I'm crazy?"...

Like in some sense your right that % forecasts are more useful than "More likely/less likely" and sizes are better than "bigger smaller" but when dealing with intangibles like status I think it's pretty costly to calculate some status number, so I do the cheaper thing.


Also would you prefer people used over/underrated less or would you prefer the people who use over/underrated spoke less? Because I would guess that some chunk of those 50ish karma are from people who don't like the vibe rather than some epistemic thing. And if that's the case, I think we should have a different discussion.

I guess I think that might come from a frustration around jargon or rationalists in general. And I'm pretty happy to try and broaden my answer from over/underrated - just as I would if someone asked me how big a star was and I said "bigger than an elephant". But it's worth noting it's a bandwidth thing and often used because giving exact sizes in status is hard. Perhaps we shouldn't have numbers and words for it, but we don't.

Oh yeah, no I agree with that. I have lost at least one EA friend partly because I wasn't willing enough to condemn Hanania (despite saying that he said racist stuff and I didn't want him to speak and pushing for discussion that lead to him being removed as a speaker). People pretty get annoyed at me for what I consider to be milquetoast takes or for trying to reach consensus on difficult discussion[1], I have received an angry screed for criticism of an EA leader. I don't think EA is particularly safe for me[2]. My instincts here aren't that this is good. 

But I claim that there are lines that shouldn't be crossed and if that empowers people I don't like, in the short term, so be it. It's what I think. 

 I think there is a line that Hanania can cross and (until he uncrosses it, with some cost) I will push for large costs to be imposed on him. For me, he has crossed that line and I am pretty confused how much value he should create before I say it's more than the harm but I don't think he's done enough so far. 

  1. ^

    I imagine they would characterise it differently.

  2. ^

    Though this is part of the issue, we're all scared and so fragile. I imagine that some minority EAs feels this way. I talked and read things from some around the bostrom stuff that felt this way.

So I have time for some of the arguments made here, but I worry that I could be frog-in-a-pot-boiled into accepting anything. It feels like there should be some things that one should say that are worthy of cancellation or very high costs. 

Eg when Hanania tweets, without apology: "Daniel Penny getting charged. These people are animals, whether they’re harassing people in subways or walking around in suits." 

I really like our taboo around racism. That people just don't say things like that. And so it feels to me likely that breaking the taboo should be $10,000 - $1,000,000 expensive. 

I don't like many orange lines, I like a few very clear red ones. Don't insult people with reference to their sex, sexuality or race. Don't dehumanise people or groups of people. If Hanania had just not said a few things he has said, I wouldn't have much problem, but he doesn't just tiptoe up to my red lines, he steps over them. 

And at that point I feel obliged to kick up a stink, otherwise we really do end up in the world where Manifest is full of edgy racists, who actually do think that some races are morally worse and should be deported or whatever. And that's a conference I don't really want to go to.

This is my sort of steelman of my procancellation position. i don't think it applies to almost anyone but Hanania and there is a way back even for him, but I think if it doesn't apply here, I'm not sure I would actually hold the view, which I do. 

I don’t dislike your style, i’m saying that when you say you don’t court controversy i don’t think that’s fully accurate, you are in like the 90th percentile, as am I.

I think some others have pointed out that adding water to an acid doesn’t make it neutral. Seems pretty plausible that bringing in more wholesome people won’t affect the situation here that much. My personal suggestion is not to have really edgy people as special guests unless they have great track records.

This feels like an unfairly harsh comeback but: 

(If I recall correctly, @Austin said Hanania had changed his opinion slightly on trans people since talking to some at manifest last year - manifest probably has a large trans overrepresentation - and this is good, I want a way back for Hanania. LIkewise I have seen less overt racism from him in the last year, but I'm not yet at the state where I want him as a lauded speaker. He could at least write an article saying he's changed his mind on this and the racist tweet about Jordan Neely)

Yeah I dislike being part of something that rewards Hanania for the worst of his behaviour, which on balance I would guess Manifest currently does.

Right now, for me, removing speakers who say racist things is a much higher priority than seeking racial balance in attendees. And probably higher than either is having an event which pushes towards the truth, since I generally think this is so hard. But I agree that there are lots of black intellectuals and streamers I'd love to listen to.

I can imagine thinking that it would be good to push slightly on speakers in the representation direction. The problem is it can quite quickly shift away from having the speakers the community most wants to hear. Probably I'd have a big poll and then anyone can nominate speakers, anyone can vote. In that world, representative speakers can be bumped up if everyone wants that but that has a cost to attendees themselves. 

People who come up with surprising ideas.

My models is that relatively few people are both very generative and very well calibrated. It's hard to be the sort of person who comes up with many novel theories or connections (Robin Hanson) and who is generally right about whatever they say (Peter Wildeford). 

I would guess that even without Hanania the event would have had ~the same black attendance. I don't think Hanania was at LessOnline and that event wasn't notably more black. I don't like Hanania either, but I don't think your theory predicts what we see. Given the lack of black people in basically all the constituent communities of Manifest I wouldn't expect much.

If we wanted manifest to have black attendees then probably the way to do it would be to invite some influencers with large black followings. If I recall correctly there are a number of debate streamers who are black. 

I can see that EA could optimise for being respectable with some controversial ideas rather than fully truth seeking. But that seems like a hard equilibrium, similarly difficult to manifest in fact:

  • Manifest is trying to be truthseeking without being full of racists
  • EA might try to be a mix of truth seeking and respectable, without becoming milquetoast.

If that were our aim, what would our north star be and how could we know we weren't ending up incapable of discussing difficult things. Already it seems that a number of issues are 'not the sort we should be truthseeking about' in the opinion of some. How do we avoid that becoming too broad a set. 

Likewise, the norms that lead to this seem pretty bad - guilt by association, inability to consider ideas on their merits - and by giving in to these norms we might strengthen them. EA has the opportunity to push back against the idea that if you engage with a few bad people you must be bad. I imagine overall this idea causes a lot of damage and is driven by fear of cancellation. I'm not sure we should endorse acting in that way.

It is plausible this is the best way to be, but I'd ask, when do we stop?

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